24 of the best things to do in Dublin: top tips for a memorable experience

JULY 30, 2019: Crowd of people outside The Temple Bar.
From pub crawls to history lessons, there's lots to keep you busy in Dublin © Popa Ioana Mirela / Shutterstock

A small capital with a huge reputation, Dublin is a multicultural, artistic city brimming with incredible architecture, beautiful green spaces and great opportunities for entertainment.

While traces of Ireland's Viking past have been largely washed away, the city is a living museum of its history since then, with medieval castles and cathedrals on display alongside the architectural splendors of its 18th-century heyday. As an added bonus, Dubliners are the greatest hosts of all, a charismatic bunch with compelling soul and sociability.

Make the most of your visit to Dublin with these top things to do in and around the city.

Forge new connections on your next adventure with the latest advice from our weekly newsletter.

1. Discover why Temple Bar is on everyone's itinerary

Temple Bar, one of Dublin's most famous areas, was burdened for years with a reputation for drunken debauchery and not much else. Visit these days and you'll find a fun neighborhood with plenty to occupy your days as well as your nights. Its excellent, quirky boutiques appeal to fashionistas who head to Siopaella and Folkster for some unusual threads. It’s also a haven for great food, both local and international.

Temple Bar Food Market runs every Saturday and it’s easy to while away an hour or two there, sampling the delights. To indulge your cultural side, explore the fantastic street murals of the Icon Walk, or see a performance at the Project Arts Centre. Drinking in Temple Bar can be more expensive than other areas, but unusual venues like the Vintage Cocktail Club or a great pub like the Palace Bar are worth your time and money.

A vast library packed with books in Trinity College, Dublin
The Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College is a breathtaking space © Lukas Bischoff / Getty Images

2. Stroll through Trinity College

Located in the heart of Dublin, Trinity College is Ireland's most prestigious university and well worth a visit. Founded in 1592, it's the alma mater of writers like Swift, Wilde and Beckett, and its 16 hectares are an oasis of aesthetic elegance.

The biggest draw is the barrel-vaulted Long Room in the Old Library. It’s the home of one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures, the Book of Kells, the beautifully-illuminated Gospel manuscript that dates back to the 9th century. Other attractions include the neo-Gothic Museum Building, home to the Zoological Museum (a top placeto visit if you're traveling with kids), and the nature-friendly wildflower meadows that make for a delightful place to wander.

3. Understand Ireland's emigration at EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum

Visitors interested in learning the story of Ireland's emigrants should put EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum on their to-do list. This interactive high-tech museum explores emigration and its effect on Ireland and the 70 million or so people spread throughout the world who claim Irish ancestry. It has been named Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards for three years in a row.

Highlights include the music section, where you can put your feet to work following the steps of the world-famous Riverdance, and the Rogues’ Gallery, where you can practise your quick-draw with a motion detector Irish outlaws quiz. For those interested in tracing their ancestry, there are professional genealogy service partners at the Irish Family History Centre.

Two pints of Guinness, a distinctive dark beer with a white top, stand on a bar as another is being poured straight from the pump
Head to the top-floor Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse for the perfect pint © VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock

4. Drink a properly poured pint at the Guinness Storehouse

The most popular attraction in Dublin is the multimedia homage to Guinness, the Guinness Storehouse, one of the world’s most famous beer brands. An old fermentation plant in the St James's Gate Brewery has been converted into the seven-storey Storehouse, devoted to sharing the company’s history and showcasing how the beer is made.

The top-floor Gravity Bar offers panoramic views of Dublin city. You can test your pouring power and drink a pint here, and maybe stick around for lunch at the excellent restaurant on the floor below.

Planning Tip: The Storehouse offers a range of experiences, including the Behind-the-Gate tour, which brings visitors to parts of St James's Gate that were previously off-limits to the public.

5. Get to know the city through a Talking Statues tour

If you're looking for a walking tour with a difference, Talking Statues Dublin is a very entertaining way to explore the city while listening to its story. There are plaques at 10 of Dublin's most famous statues with QR codes that you scan with your phone. They immediately ring you back and each call features a famous Irish actor reciting a monologue written by a current Irish author given from the perspective of the statue in question.

You can get a call back from James Joyce whose monologue is voiced by Gabriel Byrne, Wolfe Tone (Brendan Gleeson), Oscar Wilde (Andrew Scott), Fidelity on the O'Connell Monument (Ruth Negga) and James Larkin (Stephen Rea). Some approaches are dramatic, others are humorous, and some include flights of pure fantasy.

Planning Tip: You will come across these statues as you explore the city center, so check them out as you go.

a herd of fallow deer (dama dama) in the phoenix park
Check out the fallow deer in the Phoenix Park © Design Pics / Patrick Swan / Getty Images

6. Enjoy the rich greenery of the Phoenix Park

The hugely impressive 709 hectares that comprise Phoenix Park have a lot to offer visitors. Attractions include Dublin Zoo, Áras an Uachtaráin, home of the Irish president, the official residence of the US ambassador and the Papal Cross, where John Paul II said mass to a million people in 1979. Visitors are always entranced by the large herd of fallow deer that call the park home.

The park also contains the opulent Farmleigh House, the Irish government's official guesthouse, a fine Georgian-Victorian pile that was originally part of the Guinness estate. It offers a guided tour that takes in the fantastic library and glass conservatory. The vast pleasure gardens, with their lake and walled and Japanese gardens, are a delight to stroll.

Planning Tip: There's a farmers market in the grounds of Farmleigh House at the weekends.

7. Learn some recent history at Kilmainham Gaol

An imposing grey building built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol played a role in virtually every act of Ireland's painful path to independence from British rule, and even today, it still has the power to chill. Sometimes referred to as "The Bastille of Ireland", it was the forced temporary home of many rebels and revolutionaries. The Gaol was decommissioned in 1924 and is now a museum with an enthralling exhibit on the history of Irish nationalism.

Browsing the museum will give you excellent context and access to some of the former prisoners' personal belongings and letters. The enthusiastic guides provide a thought-provoking tour of the eerie prison, the largest unoccupied building of its kind in Europe. The highly memorable visit finishes in the yard where the leaders of the failed 1916 Easter Rising were executed.

People stand in an art gallery looking at the paintings on the wall
Find artworks from across Europe at the National Gallery of Ireland © Salvador Maniquiz / Shutterstock

8. See major artworks at the National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland showcases artworks spanning six centuries in 54 separate galleries. You’ll find big names include Goya, Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Van Gogh spread about its four wings, along with impressive paintings by luminaries such as Orpen, Reynolds and Van Dongen. The collection is strong in Irish art, and there are high-quality pieces from every major European school of painting.

Planning Tip: General admission is free and free tours can be booked in advance. There is an audio tour and several self-guided tours aimed specifically at families with children.

9. Travel to the suburbs to see the National Botanic Gardens

The National Botanic Gardens are an oasis of calm and beauty and, as an added bonus, entry is free. Founded in 1795, the gardens are are located in the suburb of Glasnevin and are famous for the exquisitely-restored historic glasshouses by Richard Turner that date from 1843 to 1869. The 19.5-hectare gardens contain important collections of plant species and cultivars from all over the world.

Other lovely things to see include sculptures, two sundials, a bandstand built in 1894 and a Viking house. Refreshments are available at the Garden Tearoom.

Planning Tip: For in-depth background to all of the garden's features, book in advance for a daily guided tour.

A stone archway leading to the courtyard of the Brazen Head pub in Bridge Street, Dublin.
The Liberties neighborhood is home to the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin © noel bennett / Getty Images

10. Explore the historic Liberties

Most visitors pass through the Liberties to visit the Guinness Storehouse but it's well worth staying around to explore what is one of Dublin’s more historic and interesting neighborhoods. Step into ancient St Patrick's Cathedral to see where the country's saint got his hands wet baptizing the locals, and continue to Christ Church Cathedral, the most photogenic of Dublin's three cathedrals as well as one of its most recognizable symbols.

Literary types will love Marrowbone Books, a cute, independent bookstore selling pre-loved paperbacks and hosting intimate music gigs. You’ll find Dublin’s antique quarter on Francis Street, broken up by tiny art galleries, while newer additions to the area include a couple of whiskey distilleries, Teelings and the Pearse Lyons Distillery, which offer excellent tours. The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin, is found here, and Arthur’s is the best place to continue sipping Guinness after a Storehouse visit – the crackling fire makes it ideal on a winter's evening.

11. Hear stories from the past at Malahide Castle and Gardens

Located 9km (6 miles) from Dublin Airport, the magnificent medieval Malahide Castle has a dramatic 800-year heritage and it is set on 260 acres of beautiful parkland. You can hear the stories of the Talbot family who have called Malahide Castle home for generations on a guided tour, which includes exploring the private rooms and collections.

The gardens can be visited separately and are a hugely popular tranquil retreat, containing rare trees from all over the world. The Walled Garden encompasses Isobel Talbot’s pond, the blooming Rose Garden and the famous Victorian Conservatory. It is also home to the Butterfly House, where over 20 species of butterfly live.

Planning Tip: If you're traveling with children, make time for the interactive Fairy Trail, which is full of magic and fun.

Two men chat as they wheel a bike through St Stephens Green in Dublin
St Stephen's Green is a popular hangout spot for Dubliners © David Levingstone / Getty Images

12. Eat a picnic in St Stephen's Green

One of the city’s best green spaces, St Stephen’s Green is a popular meeting spot for Dubliners and a great place to have a picnic. Although surrounded by iconic Georgian architecture, the layout of the park is quintessentially Victorian, with tree-lined avenues, a duck pond, ornamental gazebos and a bandstand that is still used in summer.

Statues and public artworks are found at every turn, and there is a playground and garden designed especially for people who are visually impaired.

Planning Tip: Grafton Street shopping area and The Little Museum of Dublin are both located right beside the park, so there are plenty of other things to do nearby.

13. Visit the free National Museum of Ireland

The artefacts of the nation are to be found in this eminent institution, which opened in 1890 with a fine collection of coins, medals and Irish antiquities, now split across three separate museum buildings. The National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology museum is the primary repository of the nation's cultural and archaeological treasures. You'll find stunning Celtic metalwork, Ireland's most famous crafted artefacts such as the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch, and a collection of mummified bodies from the Iron Age, preserved to a disturbingly perfect degree by Ireland's peat bogs.

The National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History's exhibits include a treasure trove made up of everything from silver, ceramics and glassware to weaponry, furniture and folk-life displays. Then there's the Museum of Natural History, which is also a fascinating place to visit, particularly if you have family members who will appreciate stuffed beasts and skeletons.

A stone statue of a man marks a grave site in a cemetery
Glasnevin Cemetery is the final resting place of many famous Irish people © AniaKropelk / Getty Images

14. Pay your respects at Glasnevin Cemetery

The tombstones at Ireland's largest and most historically important burial site read like a who's who of Irish history, as most of the leading names of the past 150 years are buried here, including Daniel O'Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. Glasnevin Cemetery was established in 1832 by O'Connell as a burial ground for people of all faiths and as a response to the Protestant cemeteries' refusal to bury Catholics.

The social and political story of Ireland is told in wonderful detail in Glasnevin Cemetery Museum. The City of the Dead covers the burial practices and religious beliefs of the half a million people in the cemetery, while the Milestone Gallery features a digitally interactive timeline outlining the lives of the Glasnevin's most famous residents.

Planning Tip: Combine a visit here with a trip to the next door Botanic Gardens.

15. Enjoy the small but perfect Little Museum of Dublin

Located in a handsome Georgian house, the Little Museum of Dublin is a charming place that tells the story of Dublin over the last century via memorabilia, photographs and artefacts donated by the general public. The impressive collection includes a lectern used by John F Kennedy on his 1963 visit to Ireland, and an original copy of the fateful letter given to the Irish envoys to the treaty negotiations of 1921, whose contradictory instructions were at the heart of the split that resulted in the Civil War.

There's a whole room on the 2nd floor devoted to the history of the band U2, and the museum hosts a treasure hunt that allows visitors to discover 1000 years of history in less than 60 minutes. There are always new exhibitions and fascinating tours on offer including the award-winning Green Mile tour, which is a very popular walking tour of St Stephen’s Green that begins outside the museum.

A boat sailing in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin.
Dún Laoghaire is a charming port town © Peter O'Doherty / Lonely Planet

16. Walk the pier at Dún Laoghaire

Take the Dart to the elegant south Dublin port town of Dún Laoghaire and stroll along the famous pier down to the lighthouse, where children love peering through the public viewing telescopes.

When you've worked up an appetite, enjoy a picnic in the People’s Park, which has been open to the public since 1890 and hosts a popular farmers market every Sunday. It features fine examples of Victorian architecture with the Gate Lodge and the Tea Rooms, a bandstand with the original gaslight standards and a playground. Ireland’s National Maritime Museum is housed in the 180-year-old Mariners Church, and no visit to Dún Laoghaire would be complete without a trip to Teddy's Ice-Cream for a 99 cone.

Planning Tip: While you're out that direction, the James Joyce Tower & Museum in Sandycove features Joyce memorabilia and gives a fantastic view of the coast and the surrounding countryside.

17. Have fun while you learn at the Science Gallery

Demonstrating that science is fun, engaging and relevant to our everyday lives in more ways than we could even imagine is the mission statement of the immensely popular Science Gallery, which hosts an ever-changing mix of compelling exhibits. Located in Trinity College, it encourages young people to learn through their interests.

Its exhibitions have ranged from design and violence to light and love, and from contagion and biomimicry to the futures of the human species and play. The focus is on providing programs and experiences that allow visitors to participate and facilitate social connections, always providing an element of surprise.

18. Do a Dublin pub crawl

Leopold Bloom mused in James Joyce's Ulysses that a good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub. Even in these times of green juices and heart-monitoring apps, the pub remains the alpha and omega of social interaction in Dublin. The city's relationship with alcohol is complex and conflicted but, at its very best, a night out in the pub is the perfect social lubricant and one of the highlights of a visit to Dublin.

Every Dubliner has their favorite haunt, from the never-changing traditional pub to whatever new opening is bringing in the beautiful people. With more than 1000 spread throughout the city, you're spoilt for choice.

Planning Tip: Temple Bar may be famous for its pubs, but it’s just the start: leave its well-trodden streets to discover some of Dublin’s best-loved drinking holes like John Mulligan's, where John F Kennedy paid his respects in 1945.

19. Appreciate contemporary artists at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

This former 17th-century hospital – built in the Anglo-Dutch style and inspired by Paris’ Les Invalides – is now the IMMA, home to the country’s foremost modern art gallery. The blend of old and new comes together wonderfully, and you'll find contemporary Irish artists including Louis le Brocquy, Sean Scully, Barry Flanagan, Kathy Prendergast and Dorothy Cross, as well as a film installation by Neil Jordan. The permanent exhibition also features paintings from heavy-hitters Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, and is topped up by regular temporary exhibitions.

Planning Tip: There's a good cafe on the grounds, and when you’re finished touring the cutting-edge collection, stroll around the building and the beautiful surrounding gardens.

A two-man gig at the Temple Bar in Dublin
There are few places better than Dublin for the number of live music gigs on at any one time © Yohan LB / 500px

20. Listen to some live music

You're likely to stumble across live music on many streets and throughout pubs in Dublin, with Grafton Street being a particularly good spot for excellent – and sometimes famous – buskers. Once the sun sets, catch a gig at the Button Factory or head to Whelan's, the city's most beloved live-music venue.

Pop to The International Bar for very authentic, often local music. One of the city's best comedy venues is also upstairs if you fancy a laugh. Locals' favorite, The Workman's Club, features everything from acoustic warblers to electronic harmonizers. It costs nothing to enjoy the nightly traditional sessions in O’Donoghue’s, where folk and trad legends, The Dubliners, cut their musical teeth in the 1960s.

21. Take a brisk walk at one of the city's beaches

Whether you're looking for a family day out, some cold water immersion in the open sea, or just a long stretch of sand to stroll while listening to a good podcast, you're never too far from a beach in Dublin. Sandycove Beach is very popular with young families, thanks to its shallow waters for paddling. Swimmers and divers can tackle the Forty Foot Pool, which was made famous by Joyce's Ulysses. Irish weather isn't exactly tropical, but hardy Dubliners come here all year round to swim in the Irish Sea.

Also drawing year-round swimmers is Seapoint Beach, between Blackrock and Monkstown on the southside of the city. Located in Clontarf, Dollymount Strand is a popular spot with dog-walkers and joggers, as well as swimmers, paddleboarders and kite-surfers. The 5km-long (3 mile) stretch is set to the backdrop of Dublin's Poolbeg Chimneys and Howth Head.

Planning Tip: Dollymount Strand is surrounded by the North Bull Island Nature Reserve, which is great for urban wildlife watching.

Viewpoint over O'Connell street, Dublin
O'Connell Street is Dublin's main thoroughfare © David Soanes Photography / Getty Images

22. Shop on O'Connell Street

O’Connell Street is Dublin's main thoroughfare and it houses numerous sculptures, monuments, shops and historic buildings. One of the widest streets in Europe, it is home to The Spire (Monument of Light), a large needle-like monument that stands 120m (394ft) high and is the city's most visible landmark. Notable statues include those of political leader Daniel O’Connell, Sir John Gray, James Larkin and Charles Stewart Parnell.

The General Post Office (GPO) building is where the Proclamation of the Republic was read and it is at the heart of Ireland's struggle for independence. The GPO served as command HQ for the rebels during the 1916 Easter Rising, and has become the focal point for all kinds of protests, parades and remembrances, as well as home to the interactive GPO Witness History visitor center.

23. Go on a themed city tour

Dublin isn’t that big, so a straightforward sightseeing tour is only really necessary if you’re looking to cram in the sights or avoid blistered feet. What is worth considering, however, is a specialized guided tour, especially for those with a culinary, historical or literary bent.

The excellent 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour is led by Trinity graduates, who give you the lowdown on where, why, and how the 1916 Rising took place. Then there's the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, where actors escort you through a selection of the city's most renowned literary boozers – with plenty of hilarious bits acted out for good measure. Music fans will enjoy the Dublin Musical Pub Crawl, which explores the history of Irish traditional music and its influence on contemporary styles in a number of Temple Bar pubs.

Planning Tip: Just want to put your feet up and see the sights? Dublin Bus Tours has routes with hop-on, hop-off options, and there's the semiamphibious Viking Splash Tours, which explores the city center before taking a plunge into the Grand Canal Dock.

24. Travel through the past at 14 Henrietta Street

Having opened in September 2018, 14 Henrietta Street is a relatively new addition to the Dublin museum circuit but has been very well-received. Visitors get to explore behind the facade of one of Dublin's famous Georgian townhouses, carefully restored to gently peel back layers of complex social history over 300 years. Originally built in the 1720s for wealthy Dublin families, by 1911 over 850 people lived on Henrietta Street, and over 100 of those were in number 14.

Part museum, part community archive, the museum covers the magnificent elegance of upper-class life in the 1700s to the destitution of the early 20th century, when the house was a tenement with its occupants living in near squalor. It gives visitors an insight into the stories of the humans who passed through the house, examining their changing circumstances, their experience of family life, and the impact of politics and world affairs on their circumstances.

This article was first published on April 18, 2018 and updated on August 10, 2022

Buy Experience Ireland

© Orlaith Martin / Lonely Planet.
© Orlaith Martin / Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet Experience Ireland

Lonely Planet’s Experience Ireland is your guide to unforgettable experiences and local surprises. Discover the ferociously fast sport of hurling, explore pristine beaches and hike through unspoiled wilderness - all guided by local experts with fresh perspectives.

Buy Experience Ireland

Places from this story

Recent stories

Food and Drink

What to eat and drink in Morocco

6 min readPublished about 3 hours ago
Preparing fresh Moroccan tea
Activities

The 10 best things to do in Hawaii

6 min readPublished about 13 hours ago
Hiking couple walking on Kilauea Iki crater trail on Big Island.
Hiking

The best hikes in Chile through extraordinary landscapes

6 min readPublished about 18 hours ago
A female hiker on a trail at Torres del Paine National Park.

Related content